My question is about how much science-fiction and how much chemistry is involved in the the 'Randy's Donuts' scene of Iron Man 2:

Agent Romanoff injects Lithium Dioxide into Tony Stark's neck to remove the symptoms of Palladium poisoning.

My Question is: Is it safe to inject Lithium Dioxide into our body? Does it have any side effects?

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    $\begingroup$ A quick google of LiO2 reveals, that the proper name of the compound is Lithium superoxide. Given that it is only stable at about 15-40 K, i.e. colder than -230 deg C, Tony would certainly have a very "stiff" neck after the infusion. It's a movie universe about magic stuff, take it with a wink and a grain of salt. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 10:35
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry. I know this question is for scifi.SE but I assumed this site's people are more knowledgeable about Chemical compounds and their effects on organic bodies so if you feel this question is inappropriate for chemistry.SE then please let me know $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe rather lithium peroxide but still even touching it wouldn't be good idea. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 11:07
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    $\begingroup$ The better question is "why palladium poisoning" - from the Wikipedia article: Palladium is a metal with low toxicity. ... but there is no clear evidence that the element has any adverse effects on humans. $\endgroup$
    – Ben Norris
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ I was not implying that the question is not appropriate for this site, just saying that it is indeed science fiction and that from a scientific point of view does not make much sense. From this pov, the obvious answer is: If it was possible to do that, it would be very unhealthy. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 11:28

2 Answers 2


Is it safe to inject Lithium Dioxide into our body?

No. It will do bad things.

Does it have any side effects?

Yes. It will do bad things.

As lithium is an alkali metal, it does not usually form covalent bonds, so we should treat whatever it makes as ionic. The common form of lithium oxide is $\ce{Li2O}$, which is not that scary. "Lithium dioxide" would be $\ce{LiO2}$. This implies that that lithium is tetravalent, as $\ce{Li^4+}$. This is not possible, as it requires lithium to give away 4 electrons but it does not have 4, only 3. This means that oxygens are in the superoxide form: is $\ce{O2-}$ instead of the more stable $\ce{O^2-}$. That is definitely not stable in isolation at ambient conditions (unlike other alkali superoxides) and I'm not sure where you will get that stuff.

The result of that is that one molecule (or whatever it is) of $\ce{LiO2}$ will really want to convert itself to $\ce{Li2O}$. The superoxide ion is not going to do fun things. For each $\ce{O2-}$ you're going to need 3 more electrons to make it stable, so that is very strong oxidiser.

As a comparison to what this could do to you, I would guess it would be worse than injecting pure hydrogen peroxide (you have about 5% of that in hair bleach), or pure sodium hypochloride (similar 5% in kitchen bleach). This is definitely not going to treat "palladium poisoning" because it will probably kill you beforehand.

That said, using an oxidiser (such as lithium dioxide) to treat noble metal poisoning (such as palladium) seems dubious to me. I'm not a doctor, but I reckon that there are better method to treat that. So why lithium and palladium? I guess is sounds more credible than "using titanium to treat potassium poisoning" but less credible than "using dysprosium to treat beryllium poisoning", both of which make absolutely no sense as "using lithium to treat palladium poisoning".

  • $\begingroup$ As an amateur doctor I wonder if there is not some standard chelation therapy that would extract palladium (were that ever, for some reason, necessary). $\endgroup$
    – feetwet
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ Also, why wouldn't you assume "lithium dioxide" is a synonym for lithium peroxide ($\ce{Li2O2}$), rather than the implausible lithium superoxide? $\endgroup$
    – feetwet
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 8:00
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    $\begingroup$ @feetwet because Li2O2 would be named dilithium dioxide, or just lithium peroxide. Following the convention for the rest of the periodic table, something dioxide is always XO2. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 2:38

There is no such thing as lithium dioxide. Lithium oxide however (Li2O) does exist and reacts violently and exothermic with water to produce H2 gas and LiOH, which itself is a strong base. Not something you want in your body which consists mainly of water. There's also lithium peroxide (Li2O2) which you could call lithium dioxide, but it'd be a stretch and not really correct. The peroxide reacts similarly to Li2O with the added bonus of forming hydrogen peroxide.

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    $\begingroup$ There is also lithium superoxide, $\ce{LiO2}$ which you could call lithium dioxide, but it is highly unstable and has only been isolated at very low temperatures. $\endgroup$
    – bon
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 22:00

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